From Joker to Playboy: Jared Leto to star as Hugh Hefner in biopic

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Less than a week after the death of Hugh Hefner, plans for a biopic have been announced, with Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto set to star as the iconic Playboy founder.

Set to be helmed by Rush Hour and X-Men: The Last Stand director Brett Ratner, the Hefner biopic will chronicle the life and career of the men’s culture mogul.

“Jared is an old friend,” Ratner told The Hollywood Reporter, which first reported the actor’s involvement with the project. “When he heard I got the rights to Hef’s story, he told me, ‘I want to play him. I want to understand him.’ And I really believe Jared can do it. He’s one of the great actors of today.”

This will be the second time around for Ratner and the biopic. The veteran director and producer was previously attached to a Hefner biopic with the blessing of the Playboy founder himself. Robert Downey Jr. was expected to play the lead role. That project eventually stalled out and was later picked up by another studio that planned to have The Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin at the helm. The project changed hands again later on, with Ratner regaining the rights to the film for his production company, RatPac Entertainment.

Ratner is also planning to develop a reboot of Playboy After Dark, the television talk show that Hefner hosted in the 1960s.

Born in April 1926, Hefner founded Playboy magazine in 1953 and served as the editor-in-chief of the publication and the chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, the multimedia organization he built around the Playboy brand. He built a reputation as a dedicated bon vivant who was often accompanied by multiple “girlfriends” anywhere he went, and seen wearing expensive silk pajamas and smoking a pipe. He celebrated that lifestyle through the various elements of the Playboy empire, and was known to be an outspoken advocate of sexual liberation and freedom of expression.

Hefner died September 27, 2017, at age 91.

There’s no official timeline for the Hefner biopic at this point, but Ratner has indicated that he plans to “do the motion picture as an event.” Leto, who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, will next appear in Blade Runner 2049, which hits theaters Friday, October 6.